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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Many Utah residents believe traditional marriage is threatened, and fear the issue of same-sex marriage will ultimately end up in the federal arena, Gov. Olene Walker said Thursday.
In her monthly KUED news conference, Walker suggested that the gay marriage ban approved by the Utah House Wednesday might be "overkill," but said that some people feel a strong legislative statement on traditional marriage is necessary. The Marriage Recognition Policy sanctions unions only "between a man and a woman."
"Some feel that we've got to do everything possible in the state of Utah to make a statement that we believe in the traditional marriage," Walker said. The Legislature has refused to recognize same-sex marriage twice before, in 1977 and 1996.
The governor did not say whether she planned to sign or veto the bill, only commenting, "I strongly believe in the traditional marriage."
Before the House vote Wednesday that sent the bill to Walker's desk, Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, pleaded with Republicans to reconsider.
"I'm not the only lesbian you know. Gay people are in every community in this state. We are your friends, family and co-workers," she said. "Same-sex couples live in every county in this state, some with children, some without. We work hard and pay our taxes. Defining marriage to exclude same-sex couples creates second-class citizens."
Reporters asked Walker on Thursday whether the symbolic value of the so-called "message bills" that have filled the legislative session this year justify their costs and whether their ideological tone is scaring off businesses considering relocating to the state, as some Democratic leaders have suggested.
The bills include a ban on "partial-birth" abortion, a parental-rights bill and a resolution urging Congress to withdraw from the United Nations, which died in the Senate after passing the House.
Some legislators consider that "getting the message out was worth the cost," Walker said.
"Overall, I think the message bills may have an effect on our image," she said. "There may be some that say, 'Hey, they have strong values, let's consider Utah." But businesses are ultimately more interested in Utah's business-friendly environment and the skills of its workers, she said.
Walker, a Republican, conceded that politics play a major hand in these bills. Democrats have said the Marriage Recognition Policy amounts to nothing more than an election-year campaign slogan for Republicans.
"There's no denying that this is an election year and these message bills become more apparent in an election year," Walker said.
Walker did not speak of her own political intentions, if any, for the November governor's race. The governor has until March 17 to announce her candidacy, but has remained silent on the question.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)